That was the license plate of the red car that zoomed past us when I was nine years old. I was in the backseat of the car, babbling about my day when it whizzed by my window.
My father shouted from the driver’s seat.
“Where are the cops? He just ran that red light! If we catch his license plate, I’m gonna report him. Those are the drivers that cause deadly accidents!”
I cranked my neck and stayed hyper focused on the red car, determined to discover the plate number he desired. Somehow, as we moved along the four-lane 30 MPH street, we got close enough.
I repeated the number over and over in my mind, afraid I would lose it.
JLK 415. JLK 415.
My eyes remained glued to that car. I watched as it wove through traffic until it was no longer in sight.
“JLK 415!” I boasted from the backseat.
“What’s that?” My father muttered, watching the road.
“The red car. Its license plate is JLK 415! I memorized it.”
I stayed on my father’s heels when we returned to our house, repeating the number as he removed his shoes, his coat and his wallet. I wrote it down, and placed it beside the beige push-button phone, anxious for him to phone the police. Instead, he walked past me, consumed with a bill that had arrived in the mail.
Over dinner the conversation revolved around meetings, activities, and that one particular bill.
“JLK 415!” I blurted out.
My parents continued talking about a possible printing issue in the billing department.
I repeated the number two more times until my mother asked what I was going on about.
“We saw a car go through a red light today. It was all over the place. I got the license plate number. JLK 415.”
“Too bad you can’t remember your multiplication tables as well as you remember that license plate,” my father stated as he returned to his conversation with my mother.
JLK 415, I repeated to myself.
I restated the numbers over and over again, afraid I would lose them–afraid my father would turn around and decide he needed them. But he never did. To this day, I can still remember that car and the precise location it whizzed past my window. I’m not sure why my brain held on to this image or these numbers for so long, but one thing is clear- my father was right-I never did manage to memorize my multiplication numbers as hard as I remembered that license plate. Thank goodness for cellphone calculators and Google Home.